The new year brings changes

The new year has brought about some changes for Team IMW.

Congratulations

First off, I’d like to congratulate:

  • Nate and Jaime on the arrival of their baby girl, Bayden
  • Josh and Dustie, who will welcome their second son into the world later this year
  • George for his well-earned retirement from the IL EPA (though he was just hired back this week as a temp worker, the over-achiever)

Modifications

We drove Seven as much as possible on the roads last year, both getting the word out about DIY EVs and further testing of the car in real-world situations. Then when fall rolled around and the weather turned wet, Seven was parked in the workshop and we formulated a plan. The team met and discussed a wish-list of modifications to Seven. We kicked around what was possible to accomplish before our first scheduled public appearance in March of 2011. And then we got to work.

The transmission has been modified. We only need two mechanical forward gears (the electric motor itself provides reverse) . Mike at Capital City Tool and Die is helping us by machining custom parts so that the transmission is lighter and more efficient.

This weekend we have a big build scheduled where we will modify the center battery channel so that it can hold more cells. This will free up the originally-planned back passenger leg room (where currently battery boxes are crammed) and we may be able to add additional cells, too. Seven’s current battery configuration equals less than 1 gallon equivalent. Which means we’re getting more than 230 MPGe by the new EPA standards.

We’re also working on reducing the overall weight of the car.  I’d like it to meet 400 MPGe by my 40th birthday, and that date is coming up quickly.  But that goal and those modifications are worthy of their own blog post.

Education

The XPRIZE foundation challenged us to educate the public about fuel-efficient vehicles.  Even though the competition is over, we still feel its our task to teach people what is possible. In December, George and I gave a presentation to a group of Springfield high school students (and their parents) about…well, there were a lot of tangents, but basically it came down to how you have to get your hands dirty and do a lot of projects if you want to get anywhere with your engineering degree.  We must have made an impression, because the next Saturday one of the students, Matt, became our newest volunteer.  He was put to work immediately and learned how to tear apart a transmission.  The most amazing thing was that after a long day’s work, he actually showed up the next Saturday, ready for more.  We’re doing our best to warp, I mean teach, him.

Speaking of warping, two students from the U of California: Berkeley visited the IMW workshop in December and were given the 5 cent tour.   Ben, freshman in Mechanical Engineering, and Janet, freshman in Mathematics, both originally from Shanghai.  Ben had been following the Automotive XPRIZE since the beginning and was excited to see Seven.  He’s also working on Berkeley’s solar car project, so he and I had fun interviewing each other.

It’s important that the lessons learned during the competition are passed to future engineers.  I’ve teamed up with an automotive genius and am helping him transform himself from race car miracle worker to engineering teacher. Through this process, I hope to learn a lot from him.  Our efforts involve a lot of networking amongst people we met through the XPRIZE and it’s really very exciting, but I can’t make any formal announcement yet.  If you’re interested in learning how to make a prototype car from scratch, drop me an email and I will try to keep you in the loop.

That’s it for now.
Kevin Smith
Audere Est Facere!

Ben and Janet

Ben and Janet, students from UC Berkely, visited Seven in December

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